Ruth Messinger Joins JTS as Inaugural JTS Finkelstein Institute Social Justice Fellow

Press Contact: Tom Hopkins
Office: (212) 678-8950

February 1, 2017, New York, NY

The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) is pleased to announce the appointment of Ruth Messinger, former president and CEO of American Jewish World Service (AJWS) and Manhattan Borough President, as its inaugural JTS Finkelstein Institute Social Justice Fellow. Ms. Messinger’s one-year tenure will begin February 1, 2017.

As the first JTS Finkelstein Social Justice Fellow, Messinger will help create a cohesive approach to social justice at JTS, building on the resources and initiatives already in place while also contributing to JTS’s training of its students to incorporate social justice and organizing into their work.

Messinger will work with a task force at JTS, with Rabbi Stephanie Ruskay, associate dean of The Rabbinical School of JTS, serving as her primary point of contact and liaison. She will provides leadership, teaching, and organizational support, including advising in the coordination and cohesion of the separate justice initiatives already underway in various JTS programs, virtual women’s leadership sessions for Rabbinical School students in Israel and onsite sessions for students in New York, and research on and dialogue with justice initiatives at other seminaries.

JTS faculty, staff, and students are engaged in numerous innovative social justice projects. Undergraduates at List College have worked closely with Jewish Home LifeCare, Project Sunshine at Harlem Hospital, Broadway Community Soup Kitchen, Ansche Chesed Homeless Shelter, Challah for Hunger, the New Jewish Home, Broadway Presbyterian Church, and Bushwick City Farms, among other organizations. After Hurricane Sandy, students worked on relief efforts in the Rockaways with Nechama: Jewish Response to Disaster. JTS students, faculty, and staff also partnered this past fall with Exodus Transitional Community and Union Theological Seminary on a voter registration drive in East Harlem, and had an entire minimester dedicated to exploring social justice.

Drawing on her experience in city government and advocacy, Ms. Messinger will help JTS to expand and build upon all of these efforts, as well as work to connect with alumni engaged in social justice work, both professionally and avocationally, seeking opportunities for collaboration and synergy.

About Ruth Messinger

Ruth W. Messinger is the inaugural global ambassador of American Jewish World Service (AJWS), an international human rights and development organization which she served as president and CEO from 1998 to July of 2016.  Under her leadership at AJWS, it grew exponentially—granting more than $270 million to promote social justice in the developing world and launching campaigns to end the Darfur genocide and fight for policy changes in Washington affecting marginalized people across the globe. As global ambassador, Messinger works to engage rabbis and interfaith leaders to speak out on behalf of oppressed and persecuted communities worldwide.

Before coming to AJWS, Messinger had a 20-year career in public service in New York City as a city council member and Manhattan borough president. She served recently on the State Department’s Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group, co-chairs the Sub-Working Group on Social Justice, and is a member of the World Bank’s Moral Imperative working group on extreme poverty. Messinger holds a BA from Radcliffe College and an MSW from the University of Oklahoma. She is the daughter of Marjorie Wyler, who served JTS as its director of public relations, radio and television for 55 years from 1938 to 1993.

About The Jewish Theological Seminary

JTS is a preeminent institution of Jewish higher education, training thoughtful, innovative leaders—rabbis, cantors, educators, lay leaders, and scholars—who strengthen our communities with a vision of Judaism that is deeply grounded in the Jewish past and thoroughly engaged with contemporary society. JTS also provides high-caliber lifelong learning and professional development to our alumni, adult learners, and Jewish communities throughout North America. Through its Library, JTS preserves and makes accessible to students and scholars throughout the world the greatest collection of Judaica in the Western Hemisphere.